5 Tips for that Holiday Party Speech


I loathe corporate holiday parties.

Don’t get me wrong, catching up with colleagues from other departments is good fun. It’s just the speeches. A member of the management team gives remarks on behalf of the company and invariably, it sounds just like that: someone speaking on behalf of the company logo. No personal connection. No emotion. Just facts recited as they appeared in the strategy officer’s slide deck: accurate, uninterpreted and distant.

All this was brought to mind again when I was asked to write a speech for a Group HR Director last month. She had given the speech last year, but some kind soul suggested she seek help for this year’s effort. A glance at last year’s draft showed me there was definite room for improvement.

Nick Morgan, an genuine expert in all things communications wrote an excellent article a few years back with five tips for getting speeches right. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here are his five takeaways.

  1. Great speeches are primarily emotional, not logical.
  2. Small shifts in tone make an enormous difference to the audience, so sweat the details.
  3. A great speech has a clear voice speaking throughout.
  4. A great speech conveys one idea only, though it can have lots of supporting points.
  5. A great speech answers a great need.

You can get more from Nick at his website, but for now let’s adapt his ideas to the holiday gathering.

Here are my tips for a great holiday gathering speech. Whether it’s a Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah or Festivus Party, these tips will help you add to the occasion.

  1. Make it Fun Have Fun: Begin with why you like your job. No answer? Then let someone else give the talk.
  2. Keep it Short: Your talk will never be the life of the party. Punctuate. Celebrate. Then, disappear.
  3. Recognize People, not Projects: A 3% increase in the CAGR ebitda forecast does not inspire, but the woman or man who made that happen can.
  4. Go Light on the Vision: Keep the vision real, positive yet ambitious: something people can look forward to in the new year.
  5. Put the Details Elsewhere: Chances to share with the whole firm are rare and should not be missed, but use an email or intranet post to update on the nitty gritty.

As Nick says in his final suggestion, your speech should answer a great need. Most often the need is to celebrate and mark the end of a year spent laboring together. Remember to have fun, keep it short, recognize people not projects, go light on the vision and put the details elsewhere. If you follow these steps, you can give leave your colleagues feeling appreciated and hopeful about a new year.

Now that’s something worth celebrating.

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